Monday, May 23, 2011
The Economaki-Brese-Imai-Lie-Nielsen Melange
This post marks the first for a new category at the Benchcrafted blog: Personal work.
In the past year I have been scaling back content at my other blog for no other reason than I haven't done much luthiery work for a couple years now. And much of my recent work has more to do with workholding than luthiery. So look for more personal work here in the future, interesting or not!
It's firmly established now. We are living in a woodworking hand-tool Renaissance. And yesterday I experienced it yet again.
I'm building a small chest for a friend using some of the hardest, densest, gnarliest maple I've ever come across. It's like working a tropical exotic. But yesterday everything clicked.
As many know, Andrew Lunn is no longer making saws. Like others I was on the list. So I'm still looking for ultimate performance. I've found that in John Economaki's Jointmaker Pro, which I now use to cut almost all of my dovetails, and especially the critical, joint-as-design-element dovetails. The JMP was simply awesome for cutting the joints in this chest. And they all fit together, without paring of any sort, right off the saw. And setting it up for the cuts was easy. If you can line up two marking knife lines, you can cut perfect air-tight dovetails with the JMP. I recommend using the cross-cut blade for this operation. I've found, oddly enough, that it tracks better than the ripping blade, especially in ornery woods.
Smoothing this wood was a physically demanding task. I have a Shelix head on my planer, but the traces are always removed and flatness always tweaked with hand planes. For me, machines are my shop's apprentice. I expect them to do the grunt work perfectly and without complaint, and leave the precision to me. I spend very little time in my shop setting up machines. To smooth this nasty wood I used a Lie-Nielsen #7 followed by a Brese 132-50P panel plane, both bedded at 50 degrees. The L-N got things flat, and the Brese polished the surfaces. But both planes needed honing after each side of the panels was smoothed.
But I was most impressed with my new Fujihiro chisel by Chutaro Imai. On the recommendation of Raney Nelson I purchased a 12mm Fujihiro bench chisel from Hida Tool a couple months ago. I chopped all the joints for this chest with this chisel. And I didn't go back to my stones once. That's right. The edge retention simply blew me away. That's about 5 running feet of continuous rock-hard, abrasive birdseye maple end grain work. And for fun I took some wispy thin end grain basswood shavings after I finished the last socket. Simply amazing. I think Raney has hooked me on Japanese chisels.
The chest is almost done. With all the difficulty of working this wood, I'll admit I have a soft spot for it. It's just too beautiful a material.